Maryland Court Rules the Smell of Cannabis Cannot Warrant a Search


Maryland continues to limit the abilities of the police as cannabis legalization remains a struggle. Last year, the court ruled that the observation of 10 grams or less of cannabis is not enough for a search. Now, the same court has added the smell of cannabis to that list.

“The odor of marijuana, without more, does not provide law enforcement officers with the requisite probable cause to arrest and perform a warrantless search of that person incident to the arrest,” reads the court documents in a unanimous ruling, authored by Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera.

Steps Toward Legalization

Although cannabis is still illegal throughout Maryland, the state decriminalized the possession of 10g or less in 2014. The state then began to limit the power of police last year when the highest court introduced new policies. First, the court ruled that an officer cannot use the possession of 10g or less of cannabis as a reason for a search and arrest. This ruling was made to agree with decriminalization from 2014.

Then this month, the court again ruled to limit the police in regards to cannabis. Authorities can no longer use the smell of cannabis as a reason to search any person. Both of these rulings not only limit police power, but it also ensures greater protection for Maryland citizens.

“Arresting and searching a person, without a warrant and based exclusively on the odor of marijuana on that person’s body or breath, is unreasonable and does violence to the fundamental privacy expectation in one’s body; the same concerns do not attend the search of a vehicle,” the court ruled in late July.

The Struggle Continues

These are all great steps towards both legalization and limitation of police powers. Unfortunately, this doesn’t fix all of the problems.

Another reason why these policies have been put in place is because of racial profiling. Some officers use cannabis as a way to target and arrest individuals that fit descriptions, especially in low-income areas or neighborhoods affected by the war on drugs. Although these new policies will help encourage police to stay away from this tactic, it doesn’t guarantee it.

These simple policies won’t stop those officers from racial profiling or targeting. These officers who have negative intentions will find a way to arrest any individual they want to.

The only way to completely eliminate these unfair tactics surrounded by cannabis is to completely legalize it. It’s going to take some time for lawmakers to reach this conclusion, but it’s not unlikely. Many states have recently taken additional steps toward cannabis legalization. It’s possible Maryland joins this list of states to push legalization.


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